Austin Gwaltney CPT-ACE, USAW, FMS II
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Today we are going to talk about motor learning or learning movement pattern. We have all heard the same adage of “perfect practice makes perfect”, but in the realm of motor learning it is actually the exact opposite!
We are going to use three skills to learn as an example of our motor movements. We will use basketball. Our three skills are a three pointer, a free throw, and a lay up. Let’s just call these movements A, B, and C.
For example, we go out on the basketball court and practice each skill for an hour and we can practice skill A continually for an hour block, then skill B for an hour, and finally skill C for and hour. This is an example of blocked practice.
Second technique of practice, we could go out on the court and practice skill A and B back and forth for an hour. This is an example of random blocked practice.
Lastly, we could go out on the court and randomly practice A, B, and C with no order at all. This is an example of completely random practice.
Now which one will help you perform better while you are practicing?
It would be the first strategy of blocked practice…Problem solved, right? WRONG!
Simply performing great in a practice setting does not imitate the random environment of a game performance or testing performance. The act of failing repeatedly due to the randomized practice builds more skill when the specific skills are tested. "Random practice facilitated superior learning ofthe practiced tasks as indicated by superior performance during both retention and transfer tests." (2)
The group which went completely random in practice will make many failures during practice, but will perform better when the test occurs.
Therefore, on the test day where all skills A, B , and C are tested, the group which practiced completely random should score significantly higher on all tests of skill A, B, and C.
(1)Edwards, W. (2011). Motor learning and control: From theory to practice. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning p 410-415.
(2)Curt E. Magnuson & David L. Wright (2004) Random Practice Can Facilitate the Learning of Tasks that Have Different Relative Time Structures, Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 75:2, 197-202, DOI: 10.1080/02701367.2004.10609151
Perfect Practice Does not make Perfect